Sergio M. González, "Strangers No Longer: Latino Belonging and Faith in Twentieth-Century Wisconsin" (U Illinois Press, 2024)


“Wisconsin has always been my home. It’s not a place, however, where I’ve always felt at home,” (ix) declares Dr. Sergio M. González in the first two lines of his acknowledgments for his recently published book Strangers No Longer: Latino Belonging & Faith in Twentieth-Century Wisconsin (University of Illinois Press, 2024). These two sentences are the essence of the manuscript as González guides the reader through a one-hundred-year history of Latino migration, settlement, and religious life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and surrounding rural regions. Many different nationalities that fall under the banner of the “Latino” identity have made home, work, and life in Wisconsin, but their presence was met with varying scales of hospitality – the act of welcoming “the stranger.” He writes in the Introduction, “Strangers No Longer demonstrates that relationships within hospitality interactions are in fact relations of power” (3). It is through a framework of hospitality that González structures his manuscript to show how clergy and laity accepted, to varying degrees, newly arrived Latinos in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin religious institutions have a long engagement with Latino populations. From the arrival of Mexican immigrant laborers in the 1920s who were recruited as strikebreakers, to post-war Tejano and Puerto Rican migrants who were encouraged to assimilate into eurocentric ideals of belonging, and finally to the 1980s Sanctuary Movement in which Central American asylees sought protection from state and federal immigration enforcement, each of these topics and more are covered in Strangers No Longer. González skillfully crafts a narrative where the reader witnesses the development of the relationship between Wisconsin religious institutions and various Latino communities as one moving from a relationship of paternalism in the early 20th century to one of self-determination by the late 20th century. “Wisconsin Latinos pushed churches to acknowledge that they were no longer guests in their communities, or, in the words of the organizers of a statewide conference held in Appleton in 1974, ‘strangers in our homeland’” (141). By the 21st century, González asserts, the church had become a site for Latino political consciousness and resistance for decades.

González’s methodological rigor, clear writing, and strong theoretical grounding allow the reader to understand the delicate political, racial, economic, and spiritual power relations at play for Latinos in the Midwest during the 20th century. Strangers No Longer is a valuable read for undergraduate courses in Latino history, religious history, and social movement history. Alongside his academic work, González is building out his public history projects that offer primers on the sanctuary movement, immigration history, and Latino religious life in the Midwest.

Links to Dr. Gonzalez’s publications and projects:

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Jonathan Cortez

Jonathan Cortez, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of History at The University of Texas at Austin.

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